Robertstown Canal Fest 2009 got off to a fantastic start over the August Bank Holiday when the last of the boats drew in and were welcomed with a burger and a smile to the festival. There was plenty of craic agus ceol over the weekend, including singing, dancing, traditional Irish music, storytelling and celebrity jigs and reels.

Naas Canal Festival 2009 – celebrating 220 years: Kildare IWAI and the Heritage Boat Association (HBA) got together to organise this hugely successful event.  Congratulations to the skippers and crews of the thirty-three boats who made their way to Naas; for some at times, it was not easy.  Thirty people volunteered from both organisations to ensure all went to plan (or nearly so) for the weekend.  Enda and his Waterways Ireland team did a great job in the two weeks before, cleaning the canal and removing many years of lime build up from the lock walls, sills and gates. Martin and his seconded lockkeeper team and IWAI and HBA volunteers saw all the boats safely through the locks.

The result was a weekend of fun and laughter for all ages.  There was a parade of canal boats led by 72M with crews in costume, including three generations of pirates on 74M and Popeye on 107B.  Teresa and her helpers fed the chilly crews hot, homemade soup, scones and refreshments in the old canal stores on their arrival.  The get-together on Saturday evening was an opportunity to catch up with all, enjoy the great food on offer and listen and join in with the musical entertainment provided by the crews.  Outside, the boats were lit up in the harbour and Roisin Dubh took the prize for the best-lit boat, with their seasonal rendition of lit pumpkins.

Then on Sunday, there was the excitement of the turf boat trials and race. We were treated to a walk along the canal led by local historians, describing the history of the area before and after the canal was built.  We listened to the put-put-put of the Bolinder engine as 45M arrived in harbour in the afternoon, skippered by Andy Maloney.  In the evening, at the HBA wine and cheese reception, we were welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Naas, Pat Clear, as well as Gerry Burke and Paul Martin of the HBA, Adele Picard of Kildare IWAI and Greg Whelan of the IWAI.  The HBA launched their new book Fine Lines – Clear Water and of course, there was the fun of the prize giving.  Dick Warner presented the Mick Clinton Perpetual Trophy for the first time, to the winners, Ronnie and Mary Byrne of 72M.

On Monday, we took a trip up the Corbally Branch and returned in time to meet the boatmen who worked on the canal fifty years ago and who were having their annual reunion in Naas.  In the early afternoon, boats began making their way down the Naas Branch with on board, tired but happy crews.  Among the many best bits of the weekend, was the wonderful welcome and interest from the people of Naas.  As was stated, the Naas Branch, the Harbour, the Corbally Branch and their environs are a great amenity, part of our industrial heritage and a present day leisure outlet for the people of Naas and tourists alike – we’ll all be back … soon.

Christmas Walk 2009: In the typical ‘never say die’ attitude of Kildare IWAI, thirty members braved the sub-zero temperatures on the morning of December 28th to attend the Annual Christmas Walk.  The venue was the grounds of the Lyons Estate and along the Grand Canal at the 13th lock.  Reg Beattie, Kildare IWAI member and local man, gave the gathered faithful some background information on the Lyons estate, the overflow and weir, above and below, the lock. At Aylmer Bridge, Jim Tancred, another local man with a wealth of information on the history of the area, joined us.  Jim showed us a photograph from Richard and Mary Shackleton, featuring William Shackleton and his wife Edith Smithson, boating on the canal at the mill around 1899.

Once back within the walls of the estate, the staff of La Serre Restaurant served us some very welcome, soup, sandwiches, tea and coffee in the Village Hall.  Kildare IWAI thanks Reg Beattie and Pa Keogh for organising this year’s walk and the management and staff of the Lyons Estate for hosting us and providing the refreshments.

AK & EOL 2013